Forged Under Fire follows a young woman who serves a repressive government and must hide her feelings for her best friend. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting story?
This series is a prequel to another series I wrote 6 years ago called Inside that is controlled by the same repressive government. However, I wanted to explore how someone directly threatened by the extremist laws would grow up under such a regime. Unfortunately, there are those in the world who grow up having to hide how they feel or what they believe, whether that is due to societal, governmental, or familial pressures, and the decision to fight against those pressures is not an easy one to make. I drew inspiration from many elements of modern society to create a government in order to explore such political extremism through the eyes of a single character, in order to bring a human element to an otherwise politically charged fictional world.
When creating Amelia did you have a plan for development and character traits or did it grow organically as you were writing the story?
Some elements of Amelia were planned, such as her compassion and loyalty to those she loves. However, as I was writing, her reactions to the dangerous situations she encountered were more organic as the scenes progressed. The most organic growth for her as a character was her coming to terms with whether she wanted to stand up against the oppressive laws of her nation or remain hidden in order to stay safe.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted to explore a lot of social themes in this book relating to minorities, but it was most important for me to showcase the commentary through the eyes of a character, rather than make it a critique or essay on society. I wanted to keep everything on a very human level so that, no matter what social issue I was exploring, the emotional connection with Amelia was never lost. Extremism in political and social policy is a heavy theme in the series, and I knew that I was walking a fine line, particularly with what has been seen in recent years around the world. I felt it was important to take everything I could to an extreme to explore the impact that could have on a character.
This is book one in your Coalition series. What can readers expect in book two?
Book 2, The Rising Tide, will be released on November 27, 2020. The third and final book of the trilogy will be released in Fall 2021.
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Upon Broken Wings by E.L. Reedy and A. M. Wade is not a light read, but it is a read worth your time. This dark, cathartic story is a unique meld of many genres; coming of age, gay positivity, and family all interwoven with religious flavor, life after death, angels and demons. Reedy takes us on a journey through a small, overly conservative community all the way to Purgatory in a way that makes sense. If the story has any weak points it can all be forgiven by the enthralling premise of the novel.
The story follows several boys at the verge of of adulthood; Andrew, who suffers from Aspergers, and Keenan, a brave gay boy who is coming to terms with his identity. A series of unfortunate events will lead to a gruesome assault that will require all the strength of their family and friends, dead or alive, to help them resolve.
Upon Broken Wings avoids obvious descriptions of the worst that the characters have to go through but the indication is enough to leave me seething and demanding justice. Add to it is the slow burn of sadness, loneliness and isolation that the characters feel, all the misfortune and all the lost chances add up to a dark and emotionally heavy reading experience. Reedy takes us through mud so we could feel all the anguish that made his characters behave the way they do. So when he finally, mercifully, starts to get us into a somewhat better place we feel like we earned it.
His characters are the best part of the story. They feel like real people and their motivations seem genuine, even when they are no longer among the living. And that’s a tall order with all the elements or death, gay identity and angels in it.
I felt that the dialogue was disjointed and the characters, especially young Casey, sometimes feel like intentional Mary Sues. Casey, Keenan’s brother, is a boy wise beyond his years and can also see angels. We are never given a reason for this ability. It serves the story and paints an emotional picture but I felt that it lacks depth. Similarly, Andrew’s Asperger is important for the story but we never see how it affects him in his day to day life. We are told but we are not really shown the consequences of living on a spectrum. I think this would have helped flesh out the characters.
The angels give a distinct New Age vibe. Their shallow philosophy of forgiveness and understanding along with healing crystals and other cliches works well because angels should behave like that, which gives this coming-of-age and coming-out story interesting and unexpected religious undertones. Upon Broken Wings is not a perfect story. But it is an interesting and original endeavor in this day and age that is. A rare novel, certainly worth your time.
Pages: 199 | ASIN: B07BZXWNBJ
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Bound by a dark act of hate and despair, high school freshmen, Andrew and Kiernan, learn that their untimely deaths did not bring an end to their pain, but only began the suffering of those left behind. While his lost memories return, Andrew must master seemingly impossible feats, both spiritual and physical.
As a dark spirit stalks Kiernan through the borderlands of life and death, he must also face the pain his actions have caused his loved ones. To save both their souls, Andrew must convince Kiernan to return to life and open his eyes to the love and beauty which had always been there.
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
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High school, a time for learning who you are, what your values are, and what matters in life. Gavin is the popular, most liked guy in his school. He is the trend setter and his hand-picked friends are at the top of the social pecking order. When they start planning their last summer bash before becoming seniors; he is quickly ripped out of his comfort zone when his dad decides he needs to spend his last vacation giving back to the community. Gavin is going to spend his summer working as a volunteer for camp Lift Me Up, it is a camp for kids with life threatening illnesses, a chance for them to feel normal. Here Gavin reconnects with an old friend Jacob, and they befriend Marissa, a girl with a lot of emotional baggage. Together the three of them bond and look to make their senior year one to remember not just for them, but for the whole school.
Gavin is your typical self-absorbed teenager, he’s on the football team, one of the popular kids, and comes from a family of money. Everyone knew that kid in high school, if you were not part of that crowd chances are you despised him, if you were in the crowd you looked up to him, or at least followed so not to lose your standing. When Jacob stopped following the cool crowd Gavin abandoned him. He never looked into why his best friend suddenly changed over the course of a summer. Gavin soon learned with his service at Lift Me Up what brought about the change in Jacob. Following the back and forth between Gavin and Jacob is exciting, you are never quite sure what their feelings for each other really are. Seeing Gavin grow is emotional, he learns that there is a lot more to the world than his little bubble, and he learns to really care for other people. This awakening is uplifting, it gives you hope that society is not doomed.
One of the most predominate themes in this novel is that love has no boundaries or appearances. High school romances are often flirty and based on who is who and what social class you fall into. While this novel starts out following those trends and is easily relatable to readers, it soon twists and becomes so much more. The story of Caleb, the boy with leukemia, that latches onto a resentful Gavin is a catalyst for the change in Gavin. His memory is a constant reminder of how fragile life is and that you can’t live your life trying to live up to everyone else’s standards. I was really touched by Caleb and how his short time impacted so many lives. It is a reminder that it doesn’t matter how long we are here on earth, but what we do with the time we are given. Caleb melted the heart of Gavin and reminded him there is more to life than his little social circle. Gavin and Jacob’s relationship is touching and so fluid you just can’t help but want to see how life goes for them both. Everyone should have a friendship like that in life, someone that loves you unconditionally and is there for you no questions ask. Life Sliding by S.L. Mauldin is a touching novel, thought provoking and full of compassion and hope.
Pages: 169 | ASIN: B01BBCY5RO
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The LGBTQ Meditation Journal offers contemplative spiritual adventures to enhance confidence and tranquility. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Your question necessitates a brief history of the Meditation Journal genesis.
Mary Sheldon originated The Meditation Journal concept, back in the mid-1990s. By the end of that decade, three highly successful books of guided meditations had been published, namely, The Meditation Journal, Meditations for the Twenty-first Century, and Meditations on Relationships.
Our first three volumes flew out of Costco and Target stores nationwide, as well as traditional bookstores. We were surprised by their immediate success. For a while, we considered a fourth volume, Meditations for Teenagers, but for various reasons, the book never happened.
Five years ago, Christopher signed on with Laura Baumbach’s MLR Press, a publisher of primarily LGBTQ fiction, and he has subsequently written three novels and four short stories for the Press.
Ever since becoming an MLR Press author, I have thought about an LGBTQ Meditation Journal. In the summer of 2016, at Mary Sheldon’s housewarming party, I asked my non-LGBTQ co-author, if she would write it with me. She said, “Yes!” and soon thereafter, I pitched the book to Laura Baumbach. The publisher greenlighted the project and then blessed us with her amazing Executive Editor, Kris Jacen, as our editor.
When trying to improve any area of our lives, Mary Sheldon and I turn to the real and eternal, namely the spiritual, rather than to the erroneous and temporal, to wit, the material. So, for the both of us, it is organic to improve all of the conditions of our lives with the metaphysical discipline of meditation.
So, it follows that it was important for us to help others help themselves by using the same spiritual approach that we use effectively in our own lives.
But even though the LGBTQ Community was our focus, we were determined to write guided meditation adventures that could benefit everyone, LGBTQ, or not.
I felt that there was a focus on self-love and acceptance in this book. What were some themes you tried to capture while writing?
Yes, self-acceptance and self-love are essentials for healthy, successful living. We both believe that everything made by the Creator originated spiritually and perfectly. And so, Christopher and I ask readers to employ a spiritual perspective when using our meditation adventures. We ask everyone to think of themselves as the perfect, spiritually-created, externalized ideas of the Creator’s making, and not as the flawed material beings reflected in the mirror. Our point of view reflects Divine Science rather than Earth’s limited material sciences.
And, regardless of the current conditions in their lives, we want everyone to know they have value and worth; quite simply, they matter.
After reading this book I felt that my open-mindedness of the world was reinforced. What do you hope readers take away from this book?
We hope readers will open their minds and hearts, and come to an understanding that self-acceptance, love, peace, pride, and dignity are essential. And we want them to know that if these qualities are now in short supply, our guided meditation adventures are one excellent method of enhancing them.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Christopher and I would like to write The Children’s Meditation Journal.
Of course, winning a contract for such a book is largely contingent on the current book being successful.
Right now, Christopher is in edits with the second volume in his series of Minnow Saint James Metaphysical Adventures novels. It is named The Coming of Beth, and it will be MLR Press published in the first half of next year.
For the fourth in their highly successful series of guided meditations books, Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon focus upon the LGBTQ Community, offering a month’s worth of contemplative spiritual adventures to enhance confidence and tranquility while inspiring self-acceptance, love, peace, pride, and dignity. Edited by Kris Jacen, the book explains the process of focused attention known as meditation and it offers a simple relaxation technique to induce a meditative state of mind.
Editor’s Note for eBook readers: For those that do look at page counts between print and ebook files, there is a big discrepancy between the print and ebook editions of this journal in PDF format. Don’t worry, you are not missing any content. The difference is that the print version of the book contains space to note several months observations for each meditation.
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There are different beliefs when it comes to religion, but when discussing all things spiritual, just know these two are completely different. In that, we all can relate to the familiarity of metaphysical or spiritual events, which allows us to be more open-minded in all aspects of life. In The LGBTQ Meditation Journal, authors Christopher Stone and Mary Sheldon are allowing their readers an experience on a higher level than what can be “perceived by the five physical senses”. By doing these meditation exercises, or any kind of meditation session will indeed be the start of a foundation of the eternal peace both Christopher and Mary stated as our birthright. It starts off by explaining self-acceptance, as that is the first step to moving forward in progress to loving yourself. The most challenging thing that can be conquered is self-love and that way no one else can attempt to rob you of your value.
I, myself am not of the LGBTQ community, but reading this enabled me to continue being my open-minded self, having a better understanding of how those within the community must feel, which invoked such empathy towards them. Unfortunately, the world we’re living in many people aren’t open-minded or empathetic to others and that upsets my very being. Even though the entirety of this book said many things that are relatable, there was one thing that stood out the most to me. What stood out was “self-love never includes arrogance, conceit, narcissism, smugness, and vanity”, which will bring clarity to everyone who tends to think otherwise. We are all people who need to learn to love ourselves more, in doing so I hope the world can turn around for the better.
I learned so much from reading this book, it allowed me to use my empathy and truly understand how individuals within the LGBTQ community feel living in this world. I already view them as another individual living life and don’t want to be viewed as anyone less. It’s not meant to bash anyone, but to enlighten others in hopes that they will change their perspective and treat everyone, especially LGBTQ people with respect as they would want for others to treat them. The spiritual aspect of this book doesn’t label us, it encourages us to not see the next person as another species, but as another human with feelings. I truly enjoyed reading this book and it will be an eye-opener to closed-minded individuals or those wanting to learn more on how to accept it. I highly recommend this book for everyone, there’s a lot one can learn.
Pages: 91 | ASIN: B075K69CKR
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Paralian follows your tumultuous journey to find your authentic self and happiness through many adversities. What was the moment in your life that you knew you had to write this book?
It was more a process instead of a precise moment. Throughout my childhood and teens I knew one day I’ll have to write a book about my life. So much went wrong, and I kept thinking, “In order for this to make any sense and lead to something positive I’ll have to share it one day with the world.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in finding a home inside your own body?
The biggest challenge was re-discovering who I was. As a child I knew instinctively. Then puberty hit and I got overwhelmed by societal constructs… people telling me who I am… so for a while there all I knew was something was way off… but I couldn’t quite define it.
Then, thankfully, at age 20, I stumbled over a book with short stories about trans people. Finally, there was the mirror reflecting me back to myself. The final information I needed for all puzzle pieces to fall into place. It was instant recognition. But until getting to this moment I was in a state of constant confusion and desperation.
What is one thing in your life that you regret, and what is one thing that you are happy to have done?
Regret: I miss my grandma and regret to this day that my final gender reassignment surgeries happened during a period in her life when she became increasingly senile. Grandma ended up thinking her granddaughter never visited her anymore. She didn’t recognize the young man who came to visit her so regularly and would always love her with all his heart.
Happy about: I am so glad I ventured out into the world and lived in as many places and cultures as I did. The best way to compassion, understanding, and open-mindedness is to travel the world as widely as possible. I’ll keep being a nomad all my life. It’s the most fulfilling form of existence I can think of.
You’ve traveled and lived in many different places. What has been your favorite place to visit?
There is no such thing. Every place I lived in or traveled to found its place in my heart. In each place there were countless good and bad experiences. In each place I met amazing, inspirational individuals.
Are you working on publishing another book? If so, when will it be available?
Yes, I am. I have dozens of other book ideas. I’ve just started with my next one. With all editing and time to be set aside for my day job it’ll probably be a good 2 years before my next book is being launched. I promise it’ll be worth the wait though 🙂
Definition: Paralian – Ancient Greek meaning ‘one who lives by the sea’. Paralian is a memoir narrated through the author’s relationship to water. We follow Liam Klenk’s tumultuous journey to find his authentic self and happiness against more than a lifetime’s worth of adversities. At five months old, Liam was adopted from an orphanage and ushered into a unique journey, which introduced him to the characters that would become both the currents that moved him and the rocks that supported him. Liam, who lives in Zurich with his wife, says: “At three years old I began catching odd glances because I was born in a girl’s body yet began to introduce myself to people as a boy.” Paralian tells the remarkable story of an honest, and at times, challenging life, and offers insight and wisdom from a fluid position – from experience. Liam reveals how exploring the world helped him find a home inside his own body and spirit. Through this ultimately heartwarming and inspiring story, readers learn how Liam never gave up, faced his fears, and always managed to find positivity in each trauma. Written with an engaging sense of humour, this memoir of transcendence and finding oneself will appeal to those who enjoy true stories of courage, resilience, and dedication in the face of adversity. Paralian celebrates life with infectious strength and positivity. Follow Liam’s journey from a small river in Germany to the biggest performance pool in the world, from Switzerland to the US, the Maldives to Macau.
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